Monday, June 27, 2016

"A Children's Book Introduces German Kids to the True Story of Syrian Refugees"

[Credit: Jan Birck]
"There are now more than 65 million people displaced by conflict in the world, the highest level ever recorded. Half of these refugees are children.

Germany has received more than 1 million refugees, mostly from Syria and Iraq. Despite supporters initially celebrating Chancellor Angela Merkel's actions, many Germans have begun voicing concerns about when this acceptance of migrants will come to an end.

But while the adults in Germany have expressed mixed reactions to the refugees, German author Kirsten Boie wants children at least to realize that a refugee child is just like any other kid in the world.

In her latest children’s book, “Everything Will Be Alright,” she writes the true story of Rahaf and her family, who flee Homs, Syria due to bombings by war planes. The family crosses the Mediterranean Sea on a small boat, ultimately choosing a small town near Hamburg, Germany to start their new lives.

The book is published in German and Arabic and is meant to be read at school to both German-born children and their new immigrant neighbors. (An English translation is available online here.)"

Listen to this story on »

Friday, June 24, 2016

"On the results of the UK/Europe referendum - DiEM 25"

This movement, of which I am a proud member, released a statement this morning which I generally agree with:

"DiEM25 campaigned vigorously in favour of a radical IN vote.

OUT won because the EU establishment have made it impossible, through their anti-democratic reign (not to mention the asphyxiation of weaker countries like Greece), for the people of Britain to imagine a democratic EU.
Our radical IN campaign was thus defeated.

We can proudly look the powers-that-be in Brussels, Berlin, Frankfurt, Paris etc. in the eye and tell them: “We tried to save the EU from you. But you have poisoned the EU so badly by silencing the voices of democrats that, though we tried, we could not convince to people of Britain to stay.”

We, at DiEM25, are in no mood for being downcast now that Leave won, against our better efforts. As of today, a new exciting challenge begins for our pan-European democratic movement.

At DiEM25 we rejected the logic of EU disintegration implicit in the Leave campaign. But we also rejected the logic of business-as-usual for the EU peddled by David Cameron, Tony Blair, Wolfgang Schäuble, François Hollande, Jean-Claude Juncker, Hillary Clinton and all the other contributors to the loss of EU’s legitimacy, integrity and soul.
DiEM25 regrets that the British people chose to leave in the EU. But at the same time, DiEM25 welcomes the British people’s determination to tackle the diminution of democratic sovereignty caused by the gross de-politicisation of political decisions and the consequent democratic deficit in the EU.

As of today, DiEM25 will seize upon the OUT vote to promote its radical agenda of confronting the EU establishment more powerfully than before.

The EU’s disintegration is now running at full speed. The DiEM25 campaign of building bridges across Europe, bringing democrats together across borders and political parties, is what Europe needs more than ever to avoid a slide into a xenophobic, deflationary, 1930s-like abyss. 

In this endeavour, British progressives will be at the heart of DiEM25’s campaigns."

Saturday, June 18, 2016

" ‘The Day I Became Just a Stupid Number': One Syrian Refugee's Journey to Europe "

[Zozan Khaled Musa]
"A lot has been written about refugees in the last two years. But rarely do we hear from the refugees themselves in more than just soundbites. 

GlobalPost, an international news organization within the PRI family, commissioned essays from five young Syrians who all made the difficult decision to leave their homes — and undertake a menacing journey out of the country, to Turkey, to Greece and across southern Europe. 

This essay by Zozan Khaled Musa, 25, was originally published on on May 31, 2016, and is republished here with permission. 

After a long dark journey in the Aegean Sea, I arrived to the small Greek island of Nera at about 3:30 on the cold morning of Oct. 3, 2015. There were many local fishermen who helped us after the boat landed. They wanted to have the boat’s engine, which was valuable to them.

It was an unbelievable relief to see our feet on land again. We decided to rest in a small room near the beach. There was not enough room for all of us. So only the women and children stayed inside. I made my bag a pillow and my jacket a blanket, but it was so cold that I couldn't close my eyes. 

When there was enough light, we walked to the local police station. It was about two-and-a-half miles away.
Many boats arrived to the island that night. Hundreds of people were standing in a line waiting their turn to be registered so they could take another boat to the main island of Kos. In Nera, when my turn came to get inside the office, they wrote the number “17” on my hand. 

I will never forget the day that I became just a stupid number on a long inhuman list. How shameful for humanity that so many people became nonhuman in that single helpless moment. I did all the procedures as best I could and headed to Kos, where the authorities waited for us with a paper with each one of our names on it. 

That paper allowed us to get on a ship going to Athens. It was a 12-hour journey. I made it to Athens the next morning and parted from my husband's friend’s family and met a Greek friend who was helping me get on a bus to the Macedonian border. It was 11 p.m..."

Read more from source here.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

"Why the Spanish election offers hope for Europe" - Yanis Varoufakis interviewed in Barcelona

On 26th June the people of Catalonia, the people of Spain, have a unique opportunity to vote in a progressive government that will save the European Union from itself and from the disaster caused by the self-defeating austerity breeding unbearable authoritarianism. 

The incumbent prime minister of the right-wing People’s Party behaves like a spoilt child in Brussels, begging to be allowed to violate the unenforceable rules. The next prime minister of Spain, representing a progressive government that the Spanish voters now have the opportunity to bring to power, must call forth a EU summit that discusses and draws up new, rational, enforceable rules. 

Only then can Spain breathe again in a Europe that re-discovers its poise, rationality and humanity. This is why the 26th of June presents a unique opportunity, one that will be realised as long as the next government refuses to commit to existing policies and to Rajoy’s and Dos Guindos’ prior commitments to the Eurogroup.

Read more from a Greek bearing truths at his blog here.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

"A stretched agony" - My latest book review for Catalonia Today magazine

small children trade the world for distraction
deal in statements with the grammar of a road sign
they’re happy to put the sun in the top corner of the page
count backwards from 9 and arrive at the end of this sentence
These lines from Nathan Shepherdson’s newly-reprinted “Sweeping the Light Back Into the Mirror” are an example of what this award-winning poet does so well: he uses memory to compress sentiments that are without sentimentality and gives us self-revelations that are not self-obsessed.
In one moment he is inside the mind of himself as a child: innocence, naivety and then using exact nuances of expression to capture that uncomplicated kiddy outlook. On another page you get the distinct impression that he is having a (one-sided) talk with his dead mother. The author not only dedicates the book to Noela Mary Shepherdson (who died in 2003) but he also continually shows a deep understanding of women in general, including an appreciation of women’s clothes and ‘finery.'

But this poet’s skills go much further than mere observation. His brilliantly gothic portrait of two crows near his mother’s grave is sixteen lines of the best poetry I have ever read, and his use of personification is equally as deft because it never seems forced or misplaced. Shepherdson also has a way of reminding us of what he calls the ‘tribunal of memoryand how it can make the settings of people we have been fond of so poignant and emblematic.

I too share his obvious fascination with the insect world (especially ants) and enjoy his regular references to plants, animals and nature in general. It would be wrong though to say that this book is in any way a breezy affair. There is barely a moment of lightness. When it appears it is the bleakest of dark humour (remindeding me of an episode with a waitress in Bob Dylan’s song Highlands.) Shepherdson recalls his mother this way: "you drew a straight line on the wall/laughed and turned/and declared it a self portrait"

Every parent would surely like to be revered with such devotion by a son or daughter, though for this poet it has come at a price. Here, he is filleting his nerves: "this is where I murder truth/cut the bowels out of the clock /this is where you pay the bill/the one you kept under your left breast for years/you had faith/i had you"

The final part of the book is a like a doctor’s chart that puts graphic images on top of one another. It gives snapshots of the brutal physical and mental decline of an emotionally-generous woman, and is a kind of stretched agony. I found tears stinging my eyes while reading the last pages of this book:

take a marking pen
and draw infinity around the eyes of one just departed
you have just created two black holes
marked them out with a warning for light to turn away…
i wish i could draw your fingerprints from memory
exhume entire landscapes from an archive of touch

[This article was first published in Catalonia Today magazine, June 2016.]

Monday, May 30, 2016

"Can George Orwell Teach Catalonia a Lesson?"

"In the clear yet cold winter of 1936-1937 a 33-year-old George Orwell found himself fighting on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War.  He was to vividly record his experiences in Homage to Catalonia, one of the first-rate nonfictional books on the brutality of war. 

Now, with almost 50% of Catalans in favor breaking away from Spain, Spaniards are facing a possible fracturing of their country.  Absurd? Impossible? Illegal? Unconstitutional?  Well, Orwell had never imagined that the Barcelona he admired, where “the working class was in the saddle,” and where “there was a belief in the revolution and the future,” was to have “lies and rumors circulating everywhere, the posters screaming from the hoardings that I and everyone like me was a Fascist spy” in less than six months’ time.
No one is predicting that in today’s Spain fellow countrymen will be killing each other, and the Minister of Defense has said that Spanish military involvement will be unnecessary as long as everybody “fulfills their duty.”  But there are several salient historical and political parallels between what Orwell experienced in the Spanish Civil War and the current independence movement in Catalonia

Read more from source at El Pais in English here

Saturday, May 21, 2016

"Germany puts refugees to work ... for one euro [an hour]"

"With a spoon and spatula in hand, Zaid, a 23-year-old Iraqi refugee, lifts the lid on a large pot filled with goulash and potatoes as he begins his shift.

From 6:30 to 8 pm, he is employed by the city of Berlin to dish out dinner to 152 other Syrian, Iraqi, Afghan and Moldovan refugees in a sports hall, which had been turned into an emergency shelter for the newcomers.

Zaid is one of thousands of refugees who have taken on tasks ranging from repairing bicycles to pruning plants to cleaning sidewalks for pay of just over one euro ($1.1) an hour.

The so-called "one-euro jobs" have been touted as a springboard for the newcomers into Germany's job market, but experts remain skeptical about their effectiveness.

At the sports gym, Zaid tries to explain to the sceptical faces crowded in front of him what went into the beef stew that he described as "so German."

For the work that includes setting the table, cutting bread, serving food and then cleaning up, he is paid 1.05 euros an hour.

Restricted to working no more than 20 hours a week, Zaid gets a monthly income of 84 euros at best, a small extra on top of the 143 euros he receives as pocket money while he waits for the official decision on his asylum application."

Read more from source at GlobalPost here.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Varoufakis on Spain’s general election & Podemos’ prospects – op-ed in Newsweek

"Last July, Mariano Rajoy, Spain’s conservative prime minister, exited a 17-hour-long European Council meeting dedicated to Greece, wielding in front of the cameras the surrender document that his Greek counterpart, Alexis Tsipras, had just signed. 

Staring into the camera he told the Spanish people watching at home: “This is what you get by voting for parties like Syriza.”

The crushing of the Athens Spring, together with the soothing fairytale of Spain’s economic “recovery,” was meant to stem the rise of Podemos (a.k.a Spain’s answer to Syriza) and to lead Rajoy to a general election victory in December 2015. Alas, voters had other ideas, denying Rajoy a working majority, giving Podemos a larger share than the pollsters had predicted, and producing a hung parliament.

Since then, frantic negotiations between Rajoy’s People’s Party, the fading Socialists led by Pedro Sanchez, the newfangled neoliberal Citizens’ party and Podemos have failed to produce a coalition government, triggering a fresh general election. The new contest’s outcome will hinge on whether Podemos manages to rise from third to second place, pushing the Socialists into a fate similar to that suffered by the Greek socialists (PASOK) and awaiting the French socialists next year.

If Podemos fails, a grand coalition of the establishment parties, possibly with the addition of the Citizens’ party, is on the cards. But if Podemos manages to shrug off Syriza’s humiliation and overcome Rajoy’s fear mongering to become the second largest party, another hung parliament will spell the end of the two-party system. This will yield a Madrid government inimical to the troika and the ironclad majority that the German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has surrounded himself with in the Eurogroup.

Such a development would spell trouble for Europe’s frazzled establishment which, for this reason, is now trying to rush through a new Greek austerity package before the end of May. The hope is to trap Athens into permanent debt bondage before the Spanish voters deliver a verdict likely to alter the balance of power within the Eurogroup.

But will Podemos manage to overtake the Socialists?"

Read more here.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

"East of interest" - My latest article for Catalonia Today magazine

[A man passing by the “light border” installation along the remains of the Berlin Wall. Photo: AFP.]

How little we know about the culture of that 'area of darkness:' Eastern Europe. 
Living within a few hundred kilometres of this region, most of us would be hard pressed to give the names of more than a handful of directors, actors or music groups from somewhere as close as the Czech Republic or even from the former East Germany. Communism blotted out an entire world of creative expression to those who lived in the so-called free West of Europe and tastes in cultural fashion have hardly reclaimed any of it.
Reading Polish writer Agata Pyzik's recent ironically titled book "Poor But Sexy" helps to uncover some of what she calls the 'culture clashes' between the two sides of the continent. 
She argues that twenty five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Europe is as divided as ever. Only occasionally using too much post-modernist academic jargon, she makes the highly convincing case that the Western 'democratic' world has maintained an arrogant assumption that everybody wants to 'buy into' their capitalist belief systems. As well as this, she acknowledges that conservative political failures (including missed opportunities on the left) have meant that market forces and greed have also triumphed over social or collective responsibility in the East, just they clearly have triumphed in the West.
But what Pyzik also does is give the reader a new insight into the arts in a part of the planet when all creative action had a political edge to it. Russian films of the post-war era obviously had a propagandist purpose (very often) but the Sots Art movement also got away with mocking 'unberaable, ritualised Soviet life' while simultaneously showing how the average person could attempt a normal existence among the ruins of the old world.
As well as this, writers such as György Lukács used a kind of Brecht-like critical realism to 'inspire and activate the reader.' In his earlier book "Man Without Qualities" - a superb title - he largely rejects modernity, seeing 'the tragedy of the modern artist as someone who lost the ground under their feet.' Surprisingly, he views this as 'an advance rather than a difficulty.' 
Again and again in Eastern Bloc culture Pyzik points out examples of the contradictions and paradoxes of the kind that seem to me to be a big part of French thinking but are so often overly simplified into the black-and-white certainties of Iberian habits of mind.
Another strength of this book is that it recognises the unheralded contribution of women in the East. 
It took the feminist film director Agnieska to accurately predict how female activism in Poland's Solidarity movement would be wiped from popular memory and when this is combined with how sexuality was restricted and banned in the movies across Communist nations, it is alarming how the idea of feminine purity was so dominant. In a patriarchal Catholic Poland 'full of open sexism' precious few women characters of equality got through to be seen.
And in this book there are countless references to the culture from the West so that we are not lost in unfamiliar names. Everyone from David Bowie to Ken Loach to Art of Noise gets a mention. There are plenty of relevant comparisons with contemporary Eastern culture, Pyzik finds. She ends with the disturbing statement that the populace of Eastern Europe "so strongly believe we don't deserve the normal conditions of a social democracy that we hardly fight for it." Let's not make that same mistake in other parts of the planet.

[This article was first published in Catalonia Today magazine, May 2016.]

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Spain tops poll on accepting Syrian refugees

This poll is part of a fascinating wider international survey titled "Identity 2016" which also found that 'Global citizenship' is increasing at the expense of nationalism. To me, this is extremely encouraging.

"On the question of whether intermarriage was a welcome development" Spain and the UK were the countries most in favour.

Read more from BBC source here.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Saturday, April 16, 2016

"Brussels rebukes Spain for failing to take in refugees"

[Refugees and migrants wait in line for tea in a camp in Idomeni, on the border between Greece and Macedonia. Reuters]         

Last week on Catalan (English language) TV, I called for the European Union to hold back financing for Spain if the national government did not immediately follow up on it's previous agreement to welcome significantly greater numbers of refugees than it had done.

"Spain has only taken in 18 refugees since September 2015, when European countries pledged to help people fleeing conflict in Syria. 

In March, the Spanish government promised to speed up that rate by accepting 467 new refugees within that same month. 

But a European Commission report shows that nearly two weeks after the deadline expired, not a single one of those 467 people has arrived on Spanish soil.

Several European institutions are rebuking Spain for these disappointing numbers, and talking about "a lack of willingness" on the part of the Popular Party (PP) acting administration. Acnur, the United Nations refugee agency, joined that chorus of critical voices in Congress on Tuesday."

More from El Pais source article (in English) here.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

"From across the centuries" - An article about Shakespeare for Catalonia Today magazine

One of the greatest things about Shakespeare - one of the things I love most about his writing - is his rare ability to have his characters speak for themselves but also somehow show a more universal state of mind. 
His fiction is as real as it can get despite the fact that we are reading his words or hearing them said hundreds of years after he wrote his works.
In Shakespeare's famous play Hamlet, the title character, the Prince of Denmark is depressed. His father has been murdered by an uncle and his mother has quickly remarried. Hamlet feels compelled to take revenge for his father's death but his new isolation and sadness cause him to be on the point of suicide. He says:
"I have of late—but wherefore I know not—lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises, and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air—look you, this brave o'erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire—why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors. What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! ...The beauty of the world. The paragon of animals. And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me. No, nor woman neither."
To me this is one of the most moving of Shakespeare's passages. I first heard it performed by Richard E. Grant, playing an unemployed actor in the final scene of the superb film, "Withnail and I." Here, the character is seemingly making a balancing act in his mind, weighing up the good and bad of his species and the universe we inhabit. His judgement is a heavy one, as if mankind does not merit a place in the cosmos. 
Or is Hamlet just speaking for himself alone? That is another beauty of Shakespeare's writing. He is a poet and surely the greatest in the history of the English language. His words are open to many interpretations still (even after thousands of academics have picked them apart syllable by syllable) and this pliability gives his ideas a freshness that never dries up.
As a wordsmith and creator of English, it's also generally accepted that no-one can be compared with Shakespeare. When he couldn't find a word to do the job he wanted he simply invented a new word and many of these words live on in the language today. 
 His writing benefited from him also being an actor. Shakespeare knew how lines could be delivered and had an extraordinary ear for how their musical rhythm would be heard by audiences.
Sadly, many people's experience of The Bard (as he is often called) was having his sometimes archaic language drummed into them by secondary school teachers who knew no better than the traditional methods. I was one of these victims and didn't rediscover the glories of Shakespeare's work until well into my twenties. 
Then I found that I too had to teach his plays. This was not easy but surprisingly, I learnt that my Catalan students were much more receptive to him than those kids I'd tried to teach Shakespeare in Australia or England. Catalan students had the advantage of already being bilingual and Elizabethan-era English was just another challenge. 
 Shakespeare's timeless themes will continue to reach out across the centuries, "to-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow."

[This article was first published in Catalonia Today magazine, April 2016.] 
(The Flower Portrait above was long thought to be a contemporary painting of the Bard, but a 2004 investigation found it to be a 19th-century forgery. / Photo: ARCHIVE.)

Saturday, April 2, 2016

My latest appearance on The English Hour (El Punt Avui TV)
Last Thursday I was a guest again on Matthew Tree's round table chat show, Our Finest Hour

We talked about the Spanish government's disgraceful rejection of Catalan proposals to welcome 4,500 refugees, the most recent ranglings over who might make up the next administration in Madrid and the role of multi-lingualism in Catalunya.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

"France moves towards full ban on pesticides blamed for bee losses"

"French lawmakers approved plans for a total ban on some widely used pesticides blamed for harming bees, going beyond European Union restrictions in a fierce debate that has pitched farmers and chemical firms against beekeepers and green groups.

The EU limited the use of neonicotinoid chemicals, produced by companies including Bayer CropScience and Syngenta , two years ago after research pointed to risks for bees, which play a crucial role pollinating crops.

Crop chemical makers say the research blaming neonicotinoid pesticides is not backed up by field evidence and a global plunge in bee numbers in recent years is a complex phenomenon due to multiple factors."

Read more from source here.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Noam Chomsky Joins Democracy in Europe [DiEM25]

"Distinguished American linguist, philosopher and political activist, Noam Chomsky, has [this week] officially endorsed DiEM25, the Democracy in Europe Movement launched last month by Greece’s former Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis.

“The formation of the European Union,” explained Chomsky, “was a highly encouraging step forward in world affairs, with great promise.” However, in view of the American scholar, the EU “now faces severe threats, from within, tracing in no small measure to the attack on democracy.”

Upon becoming the latest signatory of the movement’s Manifesto, Chomsky affirmed, “[DiEM25’s] Manifesto is a bold effort to reverse the damage and restore the promise, an initiative of great significance.”

Read more from source here.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

"Refugees start arriving in government says “no” to closed borders"

"Prime minister António Costa’s willingness to take as many as 10,000 refugees - instead of the 4500 established by EU quotas - is being demonstrated today as the European Council holds its emergency summit in Brussels on what is universally recognised as the 'worst refugee crisis since World War II'.

Hours before the summit got underway, 64 ‘mainly Syrians and Iraqis’ touched down at Lisbon’s military airbase (Figo Maduro) to be received by dignitaries before going on to various destinations around the country.

A number - particularly children - were so frail and ill from gruelling months of uncertainty and inhospitable conditions in Greece that they had to be immediately transported to hospital, writes Público.

Talking to journalists, Costa’s deputy Eduardo Cabrita said the latest 64 which have followed 65 Eritreans who have arrived since December are “mainly Iraqis and Syrians”, with women, children and families making up most of the numbers, plus a few single people.

Next week, more will start arriving on commercial flights, he explained.

For now, Portugal’s new arrivals will be given accommodation in 15 locations organised by social solidarity, church and refugee support organisations."

- See more at:

Saturday, March 5, 2016

"The Wind-Water Sickness" - My latest opinion column for Catalonia Today magazine

[Japanese "onni" (devil) mask]
How do you get sick in Japan?

According to one Japanese teacher that I once talked to, a Mr Shiroi, he caught a cold because the school that we both used to teach at was in an “unfavourable” north-east position, when compared to his house. He had been working at this school for four years, he informed me, and had got sicker much more often than at his previous school, which was in a northwest direction. This was a ‘good’ location relative to where he lives, so he rarely found himself in less than perfect health.
Mr Shiroi told me that this extraordinary superstition was called fu-sui (wind-water) and has its roots in Chinese Confucian times, having a fairly committed belief amongst about 1 in 20 people in Japan, Mr Shiroi estimates. In China, he thinks it is over 10 per cent still.

Naturally, in our conversation I offered the opinion that it is actually germs that cause diseases, but this is only the ‘direct’ cause, he maintained. From this ancient nonsense, it seems that you can predict where the harmful things are, but they will only take effect on you if you have arrived at your destination from certain directions.

I contended to him that if somebody catches AIDS for example, it is because they shared a needle or bodily fluids with an infected person. In Mr Shiroi’s view it is also because they were ignorant of the warnings that, with special insider-knowledge, can be found.

Mr Shiroi then went on to inform me that all the important variables in fact changed on the night before ‘Setsubun,’ (which was only two nights before our discussion.) You see, the turning point for which directions are favourable is midnight on this ‘real’ New Year. Setsubun (literally "sectional separation") is a timed-honoured Japenese custom that marks the beginning of spring and is based on the solar calendar, not the lunar calendar used by the western world. A man puts on an onni (demon) mask and is chased out of his own house by the rest of the family who throw beans at him yelling the Japanese equivalent of bad luck out, good luck in! It is still practised in most Japanese households, he told me.

More interesting to me though were this otherwise well-educated man’s theories about predictability of natural phenomenon. I asked him if it was not only people’s houses and workplaces that came under the influence of this “cosmic compass.” Did it affect relationships? For example, if someone who was born in the town of Uji, south of Kyoto, and they married someone from say, Kameoka to their north-west, did this mean that their bond would be a successful one?

He believed it did, explaining to me that it is actually even better to marry a partner further along the same axis line. This struck me as another absurdity, particularly when taken to its logical extension. I argued that, according to his theory here, it would have been better for him to have married a woman from the very tip of Chile in South America rather than his current wife. “Oh, but you have to balance the idea with practical concerns,” he squibbed. I asked him what his wife thought about this. He said “Well, I got married before I learnt about these ways.”

I knew that just last year he had traveled to Morocco. He had previously told me that he liked it very much but that his wife never wanted to go back there again. Now, he filled me in, that particular tip of Africa had been the ‘second best’ possible place to travel to. It had been at times very difficult to find somewhere to go outside of Japan that was relatively “safe.”

Following these principles was limiting to his options, it seemed. I told him that former U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s wife Nancy had experienced similar problems with a different brand of superstition.

[This article was first published under the title "How do you get sick in Japan?" in Catalonia Today magazine, March 2016,]

Sunday, February 28, 2016

"TTIP talks press ahead with new privileges for big business"

"The 12th round of EU-US trade talks ended in Brussels [on Friday] with negotiators pressing ahead to deliver new privileges for big business, said Greenpeace. 

The start of the talks was delayed on Monday after a blockade by Greenpeace activists, who warned against a “dead end trade deal” and called for an end to the negotiations. "

Read more from source here.